Aug 6 2009 11:58am

LotR re-read: open thread, verse & what would you do? edition

Harper Collins cover of LotRThis week we’re going to WorldCon in Montréal, and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it is physically impossible to do everything that must be done while still writing a chapter re-read post.

So, let’s have an open thread. I have two suggestions from friends to kick things off:

First, Pam suggests that retelling a favorite scene as a limerick or haiku. Or hey, if you can manage other verse forms, go ahead: if you compose a good double dactyl, I will declare you to have officially Won the Internets for the day.

Second, Janni Lee Simner wants to know, “Would you really not take that thing? Even if it lay by the highway?”

With regard to the first, as I’ve mentioned here before, I have almost no ear for verse—and no ability whatsoever to write it. So I will spare you all my attempts to cast a scene from LotR in poetry.

As for the second . . . well, I have never really had fantasies of ruling the world, even when I play the “if I found a magic lamp” game. And in a weird way, I think that being a lawyer is a good reality check against the idea that if I just am careful enough and word things precisely and have good intentions, it’ll all work out. So I’d like to think I wouldn’t.

However, if you’d asked me when my father was dying, for instance, I am much less confident in my willpower and good sense.

What about you all?

(I will have Internet access at the con and will check in as often as I can, so don’t trash the place while I’m gone.)

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Kate Nepveu is, among other things, an appellate lawyer, a spouse and parent, and a woman of Asian ancestry. She also writes at her LiveJournal and booklog.

Kerwin Miller
1. tamyrlink
i cant do verse either lol

and i would so pick that thang up!

i realize and accept that i have a slight touch of megalomania.
A. L.
2. Rymenhild
I'm not entirely satisfied with this one, given that I've cheated on the name requirement, but I'll submit it anyway.

Higgledy piggledy
Gentleman traveler
cum author-translator,
B. Baggins, The Shire,

Constructed a tale of such
That later redactors could
Only admire.
Tim Nolan
3. Dr_Fidelius
I had never heard of double dactyls. However, as when I first opened the Hobbit I sense that my life will never be the same again.

This is from the earlier book and thus ineligible, but it's the first thing that came to me.

Attercop attercop
Eight-legged enemies
Ambushed the travellers
Sleeping so sound

Bilbo repelled them with
Suitable stones that were
Lying around.

And for my part, I have a feeling that I would not be able to resist picking up the Ring. I can only hope that my own journey would be closer to Bilbo's - he's always been the literary hero I identified with the most.
A. L.
4. Rymenhild
Attercop, that's it. I knew there had to be elegant and properly-scanned Tolkienesque nonsense words somewhere. I bow to your superior double dactyl, Dr. Fidelius.
Jason Henninger
5. jasonhenninger
New form to me, too but I'll give it a try (btw, this assumes Smeagol is three syllables, not two).

Isildur, Dúnadan
Ash nazg durbatulûk,
Anduin massacre
Bane of the king

Hobbitses foraging
Sméagol, Déagol
Shimmering artifact
My precious ring
Pam K
6. PamK
A witch-king of Angmarian fame
Thought immortality was his domain.
A heroic young lass
Stuck a sword in his ass.
Lesson: "human" and "man" aren't the same!
Tim Nolan
7. Dr_Fidelius
Four hobbits, two men and a wizard
Ran into a Caradhras blizzard
When the dwarf had to stop
The Elf ran on top
And declared "It's as cold as a lizard!"

This one got away from me towards the end.
Harry Connolly
8. Harry Connolly
When Merry met a wight of the barrow
He found its tunnels quite narrow
He stole a small sword
He could never affords
And used it to cripple a Nazgul.

Bleh. I like Pam K.'s better.
j p
9. sps49
Not only would I pick it up, I would take it from you by force.

Because, you know, it wouldn't corrupt me.
Tim Nolan
10. Dr_Fidelius

"no spider has ever liked being called Attercop."

The word was lodged in my brain by years of head-scratching over that line.

Takkety takkety
Go all the keyboards of members who
Fancy a go

Waxing poetically
Dashing off fantasy
Doggerel. No?
Tim Nolan
11. Dr_Fidelius
Higgledy piggledy
Lady Galadriel
Waves off the Fellowship
After a rest

Sings a farewell to them
Anduin's beckoning
On with the quest

Ah, the muse is fleeting. So many names in Tolkien are dactyls; if they could all stop pushing and shoving I might be able to do something with them.
Harry Connolly
12. swmdilla
Lathrada iathrim
Luthien daughter of
Thingol and Melian
Dancing so fair

Searching for silmarils
Beren will lead her to
Morgoths own lair
Harry Connolly
13. swmdilla
Lathrada iathrim - "Listen people of Doriath" in sindarin...I think.
Kate Nepveu
14. katenepveu
You are all awesome, but Dr_Fidelius @ #3 and PamK @ #6 are _particularly_ awesome.

*hands you both a shiny Internets*
Harry Connolly
15. L.N. Hammer
One I wrote a few years ago:

A well-preserved hobbit of Bag End
Threw a party, but gave it a gag end:
            It was time to retire
            By leaving the Shire,
So he vanished before the dead fag end.

Iain Coleman
16. Iain_Coleman
#4 Rymenhild

"Attercop" a nonsense word? The Danish for "spider" is "edderkop", so I presume Tolkien took "attercop" from a Norse root.
Chris Weigert
17. StrangeTikiGod
Wizard of mystery,
Gandalf, an Istari,
Keeper of rings to light
Fires in mens' souls

Pipe gripped in his fist as he
Finally retires to
A land without trolls.
Harry Connolly
18. DavidT
Iain_Coleman @16

Not even a Norse root -- it's a perfectly good archaic English word.

From the OED (where it's actually a column header in my compact edition):

Attercop (Obs. or dial.) Also attercoppa, attercoppe, atturcoppe, addurcop, attyrcope, attyrcoppe, attircope, etc.

Etymology disputed -- 'atter' is OE "poison", but 'cop' or 'coppe' could be from a root meaning "spider" all by itself (c.f. Dutch "spinne-cop" = spider), or a root meaning 'cup' or 'head'.

1. A spider (earliest citation c. 1000)

The 1382 Wyclif translation of the bible rendered Isaiah 59:5 as "the webbis of an attercop", but his later translation said "the webbis of an yreyn". (Yreyn is an odd spelling of "araine", from the French "ariane" and so forth back to "arachne" in Greek.)

BTW, I say Dr. Fidelius nailed it at #3, no further entries required. Unless someone cares to attempt a villanelle...
Harry Connolly
19. JoeNotCharles
Well, after seeing all the elvish, this just doesn't seem so clever any more:

Higgledy piggledy
The Silmarillion
Passes away into
Darkness and ruin

This was of old the fate
Of Arda, marred by the
Improvisation that
Sung her to doom
Tim Nolan
21. Dr_Fidelius
@ David and Kate

You are very kind. Thank you for the Internets, I will try not to break it. A toast to Pam and all brave poets in Butterbur's finest ale.

A villanelle? Now you're just messing with me.

The monster is woken from sleep
Their forefather's bane
Drums, drums in the deep

From chasms infernal and steep
Come rumours of darkness and pain
The monster is woken from sleep

Orcs up the passages creep
Pittiless, cackling, insane
Drums, drums in the deep

A whirlwind for dwarf lords to reap
The black fire of Morgoth unchained
The monster is woken from sleep

Khazad-dum is too terrible to keep
The colony's dreams were in vain
Drums, drums in the deep

In Mazarbul’s chamber they weep
They are trapped and Balin is slain.
The monster is woken from sleep
Drums, drums in the deep


My dissertation is going SO well.
Harry Connolly
22. DavidT
Dr._Fidelius @ 21:

We are not worthy.

(Kate, you may not be aware that villenelles are considered one of the most difficult of the traditional English verse forms. The best are fabulous, but most sound clunky and forced. That one is awfully good for an off-the-cuff.

Some famous villanelles:
Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that good night"
Sylvia Plath, "Mad Girl's Love Song"
Elizabeth Bishop, "One Art" (but she cheats)

There's a nice site about villanelles at:

(First attempt to post this got eaten, so if two show up it's not my fault, much. -- DT)
Harry Connolly
23. sofrina
verse is not among my gifts, but i can say for sure that if i knew what it was and how it worked, i would absolutely be able to resist the ring. only the humans who don't know are susceptible because it is already working on them and they have no perspective to realize it.

i think of it much like i think of drinking and drugs: if you see someone in the throws of the influence it is pretty easy to choose to never go there yourself. and keep making that choice every day.
Darius Bacon
24. Darius
Some 'verse' from a program I wrote that generates nonsense from a Markov model of a text (LotR here) -- it's like other programs of the sort except it knows verse forms:

You're full of grief and horror. Ever since
The grey light. Yes said Gandalf. Then once more
To go he'll want to speak. He said the prince
And then you must be kept out. Men of war
And other folk. You ought to tell you. I'd
Keep watch. These black men said the old king's head
Was bowed his head had lain. Then once more. Ride
We cannot wait. He sat beside him dead
They passed the green and long slow sleep of death
Long slopes they looked up. There they took a good
Deal more about it. Well it's here. His breath
Give any sound of hoofs behind them stood
The mountains. Need we think you understand
Me. They'll be much doubt there is still a hand

Given a shorter form it's possible to get something almost coherent:

Awe and fear
The dark mere
The sun shone
On his own
Sword and spear
Kate Nepveu
25. katenepveu
I lost track of this post in the WorldCon & post-WorldCon hecticness.

I'm not sure I've ever seen so many double datcyls in one place, guys. This is awesome. _And_ a villanelle! But really, the best line is Dr_Fidelius's "My dissertation is going SO well."

(If we do this again I'll have to set the bar higher! Sestinas, anyone? (Kidding.))

DavidT @ #22, I didn't know that Elizabeth Bishop cheated with "One Art," but I love it so I don't care.

Darius @ #24, that second computer-generated one isn't half bad.
Harry Connolly
26. DavidT
katenepveu @ #25, it's not clear that 'cheated' was the right word for me to use.

The last line of "One Art" breaks the rules for villanelle structure, by not being identical to the second line (and so forth). There are two ways to read this. The more charitable way is that poem is not a villanelle, and is not intended to be a villanelle. Rather, it is a poem about a person who is composing a villanelle expressing a sentiment that the composer isn't quite sure she believes, but is attempting to convince herself of.

It's a powerful poem, and one of my favorites -- but it is powerful in part precisely because it is not quite a villanelle.
Kate Nepveu
27. katenepveu
That makes sense, thanks. I didn't know that about the form but yes, I can see how that awareness would make it more powerful.

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